Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Not Only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution

Created September 24, 2010


The Lesson


Paul Revere's Ride

Paul Revere's ride is the most famous event of its kind in American history. But other Americans made similar rides during the American Revolution. Who were these men and women? Why were their rides important? Do they deserve to be better known?

Help your students develop a broader understanding of the Revolutionary War as they learn about some less well known but no less colorful rides that occurred in other locations. Give your students the opportunity to immortalize these "other riders" in verse as Longfellow did for Paul Revere. Heighten your students' skills in reading texts critically and making defendable judgments based on them.

Note: For a lesson comparing Longfellow’s famous poem on Revere's ride to actual historical events, see the related EDSITEment lesson Why Do We Remember Paul Revere? Paul Revere’s Ride in History and Literature.

Guiding Questions

What were the circumstances surrounding rides of the American Revolution other than Paul Revere's? Why has posterity treated them differently than Revere's ride?

Learning Objectives

After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to do the following:

  • Recount the circumstances surrounding other rides of the American Revolution.
  • List similarities and differences between the other riders' feats and Revere's.
  • Create an original poem based on historical fact.
  • Argue why at least one of the "other riders" does or does not deserve to be better known.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
  • To establish an anticipatory set for this lesson, your students will read "The Ride of Tench Tilghman," a poem by Clinton Scollard describing one of the lesser known Revolutionary War rides. Here is an account of that ride from an online essay, Tench Tilghman, by John T. Marck, available through the EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library.
  • … he continued as Washington's assistant and confidential secretary serving with great distinction throughout the war. Additionally, it was Tench Tilghman who brought the news of the surrender of General Cornwallis and the British on October 19, 1781 following their defeat at Yorktown, to Congress. Tilghman, in his journey to notify Congress in Philadelphia, first stopped in Annapolis, Maryland and informed Maryland Governor Thomas Sim Lee of the surrender. However, Governor Lee had already been informed of the news, and as a result, sent the State House messenger, Jonathan Parker to Philadelphia with the news. But, since those in Philadelphia were used to hearing information in the past that turned out to be rumors, and afraid to celebrate too soon, they waited anxiously for the official word—those dispatches that Tilghman carried. From Annapolis, Tilghman boarded a ferry at Rock Hall, Maryland, and after stopping to rest and see his family, continued on his journey to Philadelphia, arriving on October 24, 1781. He first delivered the news to the President of Congress, Thomas McKean, and then later that afternoon, attired in his full uniform and dress sword, Tench delivered the news to the members of Congress, as well as answered the numerous questions about the Battle of Yorktown. In appreciation for his faithful service, Congress awarded Tilghman a horse and another dress sword. That evening, a celebration by torchlight was held in Philadelphia in honor of Colonel Tilghman and the victory at Yorktown.
  • The poem follows the historical account and hints that Washington himself chose Tilghman for the honor. (Tilghman was Washington's assistant; and who else but Washington would refer to Cornwallis as "my Cornwallis"?) Though no heroism is attributed to the ride itself, the poem implies that Tilghman was a worthy choice to spread the rather shocking but glorious news of the defeat of the British. Scollard could see clearly in hindsight that the courage of the Patriots and French had indeed turned the world upside down.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Read The Ride of Tench Tilghman Poem

Read aloud to the group Clinton Scollard's poem The Ride of Tench Tilghman, available on the EDSITEment resource American Verse Project (from the main page, do a search for “Tench Tilghman”; find Scollard’s poem in the results). Ask students what stands out for them and what they recall about the poem after one hearing. Then, pass out copies of the text and assign different sections of the poem to volunteers to read aloud as the entire class follows along.

As a class, discuss:

  • The story being told.
  • The historical importance Scollard attributes to the event Tilghman's ride was announcing.
  • The various locations mentioned (Williamsburg and Philadelphia for example) and their significance for the colonies.
  • The humor in the poem (the watch at Philadelphia calling the rider a "tipsy clown"; Thomas McKean, the president of the Continental Congress, in his bedclothes).
  • Student opinions about Tilghman's achievement. Do they consider his feat superior to, inferior to, or about the same as Paul Revere's?
Activity 2. Choose Another Revolutionary Rider

Divide the class into three (or six, if appropriate) groups, assigning each of the following patriots to one (or two) group(s): Jack Jouett, Sybil Ludington (also spelled Luddington) and Tench Tilghman. It is the responsibility of each group to take a stand as to whether or not its members believe their rider should be remembered as well as we remember Paul Revere. The group's argument can also take into account other accomplishments of their subject other than the ride. If desired, students can use the PDF handout "Another Revolutionary Rider" to help them as they read accounts of the ride. Students can use these or other resources:

Lead the class in arriving at conclusions from the information presented. In what ways did these other rides resemble and differ from Paul Revere's ride? Why have they been overlooked?

Activity 3. Paul Revere transformed into a national folk hero

After the presentations are complete, tell the students that, according to the website of the Paul Revere House, accessible through the EDSITEment-reviewed website Internet Public Library, "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'Paul Revere's Ride,' written in 1860 and published in 1861 in the Atlantic Monthly, transformed Paul Revere from a relatively obscure, although locally known, figure in American history into a national folk hero." Perhaps all these other riders need is a writer to lift them out of obscurity.

Activity 4. Discuss why Paul Revere's ride is the best remembered

Challenge students to write a poem or short story based on one of the "other" rides. They should feel free to model their piece after Longfellow's; for example, they could open with something akin to, "Listen my children and we will review it, / the back country ride of Virginia's Jack Jouett." If you wish, you can stage a reading in which each student presents his or her poem or story to the class, along with key biographical details about the chosen subject.

Discuss why the students believe Revere's ride is the best remembered of the four in this lesson.

Extending The Lesson

  • Introduce students to additional poems by Longfellow, some of which have historical themes. Appropriate examples may be found:
  • Other poets have written about Revere's ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Have students read a few of these poems. How did the poets treat the subjects? How accurate were their accounts? The EDSITEment resource American Verse Project features the following:
    • From "The Poems of Sidney Lanier," a collection published in 1885, Psalm of the West (page 128), starting with the lines:
    • O'er Cambridge set the yeomen's mark: Climb, patriot, through the April dark.
    • From the 1903 collection "Ballads of Valor and Victory Being Stories in Song from the Annals of America" by Clinton Scollard and Wallace Rice Scollard, The Minute Men of Northboro'.
Selected EDSITEment Websites

The Basics

Time Required

3 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • History and Social Studies > U.S.
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Poetry
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Analysis
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Literary analysis
  • Poetry analysis